After several months of self-isolating due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, consumers may be dreaming about summer vacations or weekend getaways. Do your homework, book smart, and travel safe when it comes to flights and accommodations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that families stay close to home, or at least within the U.S., for any summer travels. It continues to urge social distancing, as well as diligent handwashing and cleaning.
It’s critical to plan carefully and flexibly. While many states are slowly reopening for business and airlines are ramping back up, any change in the pandemic’s trajectory could result in new restrictions that could scuttle travel plans. Familiarize yourself with cancellation and refund policies and consider travel insurance that covers COVID-19-related cancellations.
Tips for traveling safely in the age of COVID-19:
• Plan ahead to protect yourself. Never travel if you’re sick or have been exposed to COVID-19; the same goes for anyone within your group. Always take a face mask with you for public places. Pack your own food, water, plenty of medicine and hand sanitizer, in case the restaurant, gas station or convenience store can’t serve you due to occupancy limits, or there aren’t supplies available to you.
• Enjoy the outdoors safely. Beaches and parks are fun outdoor places to go; keep a safe six foot distance from other people. When going to a pool, take off the mask only when going into the water.
• Keep your vehicle clean. If renting a car, RV, or camper, carefully wipe down all surfaces, and continue to wash hands and avoid touching your face.
• Know your destination’s restrictions. Check with state regulations for quarantine requirements. Some states are still requiring visitors to isolate for 14 days when visiting the state or coming back from going out of town. Sign up for updates for any changes in policies at the location where you intend to travel. Many states are slowly re-opening for business, but that may change between the time the trip is booked and the time of departure.
• Fly smart. If planning to travel by air, carefully review cancellation policies, consider travel insurance, and make sure to clearly understand the restrictions. As the departure date gets closer, check to see how full the flight is getting to determine if you’re comfortable being less than six feet from someone.
• Be patient with the new normal. Be prepared for delays that occur when you are planning to travel because of the coronavirus. Health screenings and deeper cleaning procedures may add time to your trip.
• Exercise normal travel precautions. Leave an emergency contact number for a close family member or friend. Avoid posting on social media about where you’re going or when you’re leaving. Save the fun pictures for when you get back.
• Book through a reliable travel agent, travel site or directly with the hotel or carrier (airline, train or bus company, etc.). Better Business Bureau (BBB) received more than 5,700 complaints in 2019 concerning travel agencies and services. Check out any company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or find a BBB Accredited Business, which must adhere to BBB’s Standards for Trust requiring that they advertise honestly, be transparent, and honor promises.
• Beware of travel scams. Consumers should be wary of travel deals that seem too good to be true. Many online sites offer bargains on travel. Some are legitimate, while others may be scams. Verify the reputation of sites when booking travel by going to bbb.org, and check a site’s reservation policies and other fine print — including any COVID-19-related cancellation and refund policies — before booking deals.
For assistance or to obtain a BBB Business Profile, go to bbb.org or call 417-380-5074.